[Always go with “Hi” and the exclamation point; it makes you look friendly and overly eager, which will be disorienting since you’re not going to help.]
Thanks for reaching out — it means a lot, and I LOVE helping!
[I know this sentence looks over-the-top, but men never question it, and placing it early in the e-mail will leave him with the impression that you’ve helped him even though you’re not going to — in the end he’ll think you helped, somehow.]
I’m totally down for this, but I want to make sure I understand all the details so I don’t mess it up.
[Say this no matter how simple the task; men hate to be bothered with the details they’re asking you to assume, and they think women are easily overwhelmed.]
[Next, ask a series of multi-part questions that require both responses and actions *from him* before you can proceed. Go for length and complexity — insert non-essential clauses, beg for clarity, layer on tangentially-related tasks, etc. Here’s an example in which I respond to Cody’s request to help him plan a retirement party for his boss.]
I agree that Texas Roadhouse is an awesome place to have a retirement party! I’m a little concerned, though, because I think some people have special dietary needs. For example, I’m pretty sure Jim is lactose intolerant. Terry, I know, is vegan, and steakhouses aren’t super great for vegan people because of all the steak. Michael is gluten free (or something — he picks the cheese and toppings off his pizza and eats only that, leaving the crust, maybe he’s Paleo?). And since the party is planned for a Friday during Lent, we might want someplace with more veggie options. Do you like P.F. Chang’s?
So anyway, if you could just confirm that Jim IS or IS NOT able to eat dairy, Terry is still vegan, Michael is gluten-free (or Paleo?), and also how many Catholics there are on the guest list, that would be fantastic. Normally I would track this info. down myself, but I just don’t have the confidence that you do when talking with guys up in the executive circle. I’ll give you a couple days to chase down the data about Jim and Terry and Michael and the Catholics, and then as soon as you get that to me, we can talk next steps!
[95% of the time, this will end the exchange. Cody is lazy and won’t want to confront this wall of text, let alone do what you suggest. On the off-chance he persists, you may need to take things further. This next maneuver requires you to craft a little trifecta of things that men like Cody hate: appearing clingy, sharing pointless details about your life, and requiring him to do something on his own. Here’s an example]:
OMG Cody, I just thought of a fantastic idea for Carl’s party! As you may or may not know, people of Carl’s generation usually enjoy polka dancing — it was very popular when they were young. Anyway, *I* already know how to polka (I learned as a child when I used to hang around the Croatian Lodge with my friend Mary Ann who is Croatian!). Anyway, I googled whether there are polka lessons anywhere around here, and there ARE! I thought maybe you could take lessons until you’re as good as I am (and I’m pretty good), and then you and I could lead everyone in a round of polka at the party! Don’t you think that would be wonderful? Carl would love it. Let me know.
[Another excellent deterrent is to get super critical and to talk about your feelings a LOT. Here’s an example]:
Cody: I get what you’re saying about how we can’t account for every single dietary idiosyncrasy, but right now I just feel like you don’t even care about Jim’s digestion. I feel like you only care about yourself, and that makes me feel really bad. I feel like you don’t even care that your lack of caring about Jim makes me feel bad, and that makes me feel like you don’t care about my feelings either.
[If he’s still with you, it’s time for the magic bullet: ask him to “collate” something (don’t worry about whether that makes sense; it doesn’t have to). I’m not sure why, but the word “collate” shuts men down — I don’t think they know what it means.]